“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”
I cannot read the story of Joseph and his brothers without thinking of the charming musical play by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Sibling rivalry is on full display – extending to cruelty and near murder! Again, “biblical family values” are taking a beating here.
Anybody who’s ever had a brother or sister knows that both the best and the worst aspects of relationships: fierce love and loyalty alongside jealousy, anger, and sometimes viciousness. Families bring out the best and the worst in us. Joseph, the youngest of Jacob’s 12 sons (until Benjamin was born), was his daddy’s favorite (problem #1). He was also born of Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel. Joseph was also a bit conceited, bragging about his dreams (problem #2). Joseph’s older brothers let their emotions cloud their judgment (problem #3). Everybody gets some blame here. Joseph nearly gets killed by his brothers (a throwback to the First Fratricide of Cain and Abel), but they relent and merely sell him into slavery in Egypt. They all could use a good family therapist.
We can identify with these folks and their family drama. Sibling rivalry is not dead! But what’s significant about this story is how it moves the grand narrative forward: God uses Joseph’s brothers’ jealousy and cruelty to move Joseph into position to rescue the family from famine. Even more importantly, this shift of Joseph and his family to Egypt lays the groundwork for the later story of Hebrew slavery and redemption in the time of Moses – 500 years later! This narrative shows us how God uses human failings in Jacob’s family to set the stage for “the greatest story ever told”: that of the Exodus. The lesson here: Out of evil God can bring good. Out of death God can bring life. Out of hatred God can renew love. JBM